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Learn About Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial lung disease is a large group of disorders that involve scarring of the lung tissue between and supporting the alveoli, the air sacs in the lungs, that progressively gets worse.

There are many possible causes of the damage to the lungs, including:

  • Environmental factors: exposure to smoke, asbestos, dust and mold
  • Medications: use of chemotherapy, cardiovascular drugs and antibiotics
  • Radiation: exposure to radiation of use of radiotherapy as a treatment
  • Autoimmune conditions: pulmonary vasculitis, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus erythematosus

In some cases, there is no clear identifiable cause of interstitial lung disease.


As a result of the scarring involved with interstitial lung disease, the lung tissue can become stiff and make it difficult for you to breathe normally and get the oxygen your body needs to function.

The symptoms of interstitial lung disease are general and may include a dry cough and shortness of breath. In the early stages of the condition, shortness of breath may be worse during physical activity but it can even be problematic at rest in severe cases.


It is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible if you notice signs of interstitial lung disease, as the damage to the lungs is irreversible and should be stopped as soon as possible. In many cases, significant damage has already occurred at the time of diagnosis.

Diagnostic tests that may be used to check the structure and function of the lungs may include:

  • X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest
  • Bronchoscopy or lung biopsy
  • Pulmonary function tests
  • Echocardiogram
  • Blood tests to measure oxygen and other gas levels

Blood tests can also provide information about autoimmune diseases that may be involved in causing the damage to the lungs.


The damage to the lungs due to interstitial lung disease is usually irreversible. However, people with the disease can reduce or slow the damage to the lungs with specific treatments.

The first step is to determine the cause of the interstitial lung disease so that we can prevent further damage. For example, exposure to environmental factors or medications that may be causing the condition should be avoided. If an autoimmune condition may be causing the damage, medication to suppress the immune function in your body can help to slow the progression of the disease.

Anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic medications can help to reduce inflammation and further damage to the lungs in some cases. Some people may need oxygen therapy to help you to breathe and cope with the symptoms of interstitial lung disease. Although this won’t prevent damage to the lungs, it can make breathing easier and increase oxygen levels in your blood to improve symptoms and overall wellbeing.

For severe cases when symptoms continue with treatment, a lung transplant may be the best option.

Want to know more?

If you have noticed symptoms of interstitial lung disease, you should talk to medical professional as soon as possible to prevent further damage. At Central Arkansas Lung, we will be happy to give you personalized and professional advice and discuss treatment options for interstitial lung disease.

Simply call us if you’d like more information or to organize an appointment to discuss your symptoms.

Further Reading